More than 100 children attend Safer Internet Day Conference in Southampton as part of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Cyber Ambassador Scheme
07 February 2023
More than 100 children attended a Safer Internet Day Conference hosted at King Edward VI School on Tuesday 7 February to mark Safer Internet Day 2023.
The event was hosted by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Cyber Ambassador Scheme in partnership with King Edward’s School.
The Cyber Ambassador Scheme is a free cyber safety education and support scheme for primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges and it follows a peer-led approach by skilling-up a small number of students in education settings on key online safety issues. Informed students then pass on their learning and offer helpful support to their peers promoting good digital citizenship and civility.
The Safer Internet Day Conference brought together Key Stage 3/Key Stage 4 Cyber Ambassadors from across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and welcomed professionals from the police, charities, cyber professionals and cyber educators who delivered workshops to the 100+ secondary school children alongside Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Terry Norton.
The workshops explored online safety and cyber topics with key industry partners and provided opportunities to talk about career paths with young enthusiasts, as well debate key topics affecting the nation, like the Online Safety Bill.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Terry Norton said: “I am really pleased we have been a key partner in bringing industry experts and children together today to discuss online safety.
“So many crimes happen online, or start online. We need to make sure our children understand the dangers and are protecting themselves; treating the online space like a physical space, now and in the future. That’s why the Cyber Ambassador Scheme is so key because it is peer-led, it is children educating other children which is a really effective to ensure children have the tools to keep themselves and their friends safe.
“Young people are often more tech savvy than their parents because they have grown up with it, but they may not fully know the risks. Parents are absolutely key in this space and must understand the risks of grooming, self-harm, abuse and scams.
“The Commissioner and I will continue to lobby the government to make sure the Online Safety Bill goes far enough to protect young people, but we also need to have these schemes at a ground level making a difference in our communities.
“I think a lot of young people found their voices today and went away with the confidence to go back to their schools and educate their peers.”
Julia Van Klonowski from The Cyber Hub Trust discussed social media versus reality and what an online profile will tell prospective employers in years to come, she said: “The main aim my workshops are to get children to independently identify the tools which keep them and their profile safe. The workshops ask them what is good and what is bad about social media and how can they protect themselves against cyber bullying. It’s about coming up with the solutions and then advising them on how to take those tools forward and apply them to their own life, and inform their peers.
“Today has also been about letting children know how they can get help. For example if they are feeling uncomfortable about something that’s happening online. It is not always clear to young people who they can turn to.
“Another really key point here is about careers in the digital and cyber space which sometimes aren’t covered in schools; jobs which are well paid and independent. Children need to know about these so they know what’s possible for their futures.
“More specifically, I’m trying to get more girls into technology. We know mothers tend to affect what girls chose as career paths and that numbers of women in tech roles has not grown in 20 years. I think this needs to change, we need more role models so we can get more girls involved in technology, and do that in an exciting way.”
Frankie Snow from Yellow Door delivered a workshop on cyber flashing and reassured young people on how and where to get help, she said: “It’s been really important for us as an organisation to make sure children understand they can report incidents of cyber flashing and how they can get help.
“I think a lot of young people just accept when they are sent explicit images, but that kind of behaviour can be really upsetting for some people. It’s sexual harassment and the more it’s reported the more action can be taken.
“Addressing what could be described as low level incidents mean we have more chance of stopping more serious sexual offences from happening long term.”
Reflecting the day, four Cyber Ambassadors from King Edward School talked to us about their roles, the risks online and the advice they give their peers.
Sophie, aged 15, said: “I became a Cyber Ambassador because I wanted to bring awareness to the dangers of social media because, aside from being a great thing, but it can be used in the wrong way without any of us even knowing.
“I think with snapchat growing there is an issue around consent. In our generation everyone is taking photos without them realising. I think raising awareness around consent is really important.
“I think notifications are definitely something that distracts you. You see it while you are doing your homework and you see a notification and you try to stop yourself but it can be hard to ignore.”
“My one piece of advice for young people to stay safe is having a parent or guardian watching over you a little bit when it comes to using social media, especially if you are new to it.”
Tessa, aged 16, said: “I think some things to be aware of are the risks when people have public accounts because random, not very nice people, can message you. What is also important is leaving a positive digital footprint, especially when you are thinking about leaving school going into jobs and applying to universities. If they search your social media and you’ve got lots of really bad images of yourself online it can be really detrimental to your future.
“My one piece of advice would be to try and make sure that everything you put online leaves a positive digital footprint because these things can catch up to you, just look at the famous people that have been cancelled with old tweets. The things you might post for fun might end up being really damaging.”
Benji, aged 16, said: “I think the fake news online can be dangerous and it’s important for people to know who they can trust, which posts are right and which ones aren’t.
“There are also scammers online and it’s important to know how to navigate around them and how to deal with them.
“My one piece of advice for people staying safe online is think before you act because you don’t want to do anything that you might regret later.”
Liam, aged 15, said: “As Cyber Ambassadors, we already had a good knowledge of online safety because we’ve grown up with the internet, but how much we do in the school has increased.
“Being online is addictive and it’s right there in your pocket. I try to cut down on it but it can be hard.
“We need a lot more kindness on social media, hopefully in the future things will be more positive online.
“My one piece of advice would be don’t trust everything you see. Your self-image can be harmed by following and believing lifestyle influencers and comparing yourself to them can be really detrimental.”
Head Teacher of King Edward VI School, Neal Parker said: “It has been a real privilege to host this day, working alongside these important organisations, such as the Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office and also the charities involved.
“I think the key thing for us is educating children so that they can manage their own online presence, enabling them to have the resilience and the tools to thrive online; it is such an important thing when the internet is such a big part of our everyday lives.
“We want to make sure that children, not just here at King Edward’s but across the region, are able to successfully protect themselves online and I really hope this conference has assisted in achieving that.”